Thanks both to its accessibility and its stunning views, New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock is one of the most popular hikes in the world. Follow along on this virtual visit.
By Cathryn McCann
Mar 21 2022
Mount Monadnock | New Hampshire HikingPhoto Credit : Cathryn McCann
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There’s a reason why an entire region of a state gets named after a mountain. Mount Monadnock, an imposing 3,165-foot beauty in southwest New Hampshire, towers 1,000 feet higher than any other peak in the area and is rivaled in popularity only by Japan’s Mount Fuji. Accessible from several towns via trailheads of varying difficulty (but equal beauty), Mount Monadnock may not be as tall as many others in the White Mountains, but it still offers a good workout for hiking experts and less experienced adventurers alike. This, along with its central locale within New England, is perhaps what has made the bald-top, rocky mountain overlooking dense forests and sparkling bodies of water such a popular trek. Plus, the views reaching all the way to the Boston skyline and north to Mount Washington are worth the trip in themselves.
While there are trailheads in both Dublin and Jaffrey, the most popular route up starts at the Monadnock State Park Headquarters in Jaffrey. There you’ll find plenty of parking, a visitor center, and a park store. Entrance to the park costs $5.
The park rangers suggest that first-time Monadnock hikers — or even first-time hikers, which is often the case at this mountain — head up to the summit on the White Dot Trail (two miles; about two hours), and descend on the White Cross Trail (2.2 miles; about two and a half hours). The trails are relatively short and easily accessible but still quite beautiful, with a range of challenging terrain.
The White Dot Trail starts with an easy, gradual uphill stroll, with some thick roots and rock stairways. This may be a popular route, but it has its challenges. The trail becomes very steep and rocky about half a mile in, and there are large boulders that will require some clambering.
However, after that steep section, at just over a mile (once you get over one more large boulder), you can turn around and take in the first of many vast views before heading back into the shade of the tree-lined trail.
Mount Monadnock is a popular hike throughout the year — even in winter, for some — but if you love fall in New England, this is a great hike for foliage immersion. Walk over crunchy fallen leaves, next to branches with leaves of every shade, and below a forest speckled with all the warm shades of autumn.
There are also other pops of bright red: clusters of berries on mountain ash branches, that is.
If you go on a particularly sunny day, rays from above illuminate the foliage, providing a picturesque setting for a hike.
Monadnock has a bare summit, so expect steep scrambling over boulders once you get above the tree line and eventually making your way across large slabs of rock up to the top.
When you make it to the top, however, you’ll understand why this mountain has been popular for more than 120 years, and why it appears in literature by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Its views extend as far south as Boston and north to Mount Washington.
And you may be joined by birds swooping about.
The way down is steep and rocky, but it gradually levels out after the halfway mark.
Have you ever hiked Mount Monadnock?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.